’72 Olympic Hoops Snafu: A Contrarian View

The 1972 US Olympic Men’s Basketball Team reunited this weekend in Georgetown, where teammate Kenny Davis played in college before becoming a member of AAU’s Marathon Oiler squad and that international contingent.

The general belief here in America is that the team got a royal international screw job in Munich.

I’ve just watched the end of the game again, done a smidge of research and believe the US has nobody to blame but themselves for the loss. The situation is not as black and white as the players who still don’t want their silver medals believe.

And it goes back further than the moment when Illinois State’s Doug Collins hit two go-ahead free throws with :03 on the clock. Even before the players, tired of the slow down offense mandated by old and in the way coach Hank Iba, decided mid 4th quarter it was time to get moving and score some points.

Consider this.

The only consensus ’72 All-America on the US team was Long Beach State’s Ed Ratleff.

Remember this was the pre-pro era. Bill Walton. Not on the team. Dwight Lamar. Not on the team. Jim Chones. Not on the team. Bob McAdoo. Not on the team. Henry Bibby. Not on the team. U of L’s Jim Price, Kansas Jayhawk Bud Stallworth. All together now: Not on the squad.

The mediocre — at best — conglomeration included stiff Tom Burleson, Juco Thomas Henderson, Mike Bantom, Kevin Joyce and a gang of other not ready for prime time amateurs.

I say the gold medal was lost when the team and coach were chosen. America’s ill-advised hubris had the muckety mucks in charge of choosing them believing they could simply throw any gang of ballers out on the court coached by a Joey Meyer-caliber mentor and they’d win as long as it said USA across the chest of their jerseys.

Which is to say the red, white and blue should have been up 20 as the game wound down. Old fart coach. Mediocre players. Didn’t happen.

As for that interminable, played-thrice final three seconds. The first stoppage came when the officials finally called a timeout the Russians were trying to get as early as during Collins’ second charity toss. Listen to the tape. The buzzer was sounding. It’s a legit argument that said stoppage was okay.

The second stoppage came when a zebra allowed play to start before the scorer’s table had time to reset the clock to three seconds.

And then with 7-5 Burleson sitting on the bench, and Maryland’s Tom McMillen not challenging the inbounds pass, a length of the floor pass and the Russkies laid in the winning points uncontested. In the name of Christian Laettner, stop the ball. Play some D.

Take the silver medals. Let the silver medals sit in a Swiss band vault. I don’t care. I just don’t want to here any more crap about how the US deserves those gold medals.

– Seedy K



  1. cbcard
    Posted August 27, 2012 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    You have omitted the committee guy (Jones?) coming down from the stands and telling the zebras to do Act III. That’s the part that really amazes me.

  2. cbcard
    Posted August 27, 2012 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    It was Jones of FIBA and here is an interesting sidebar:

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-07-23/three-seconds-at-1972-olympics-haunt-u-s-basketball.htmlesting sidebar:

  3. cbcard
    Posted August 27, 2012 at 9:38 am | Permalink


  4. Seedy K
    Posted August 27, 2012 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    I’m so glad I could provide you with something over which to obsess this morning.

  5. Wildcat
    Posted August 27, 2012 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    Be interesting to see Billy Reed’s take on this interpretation.

  6. Seedy K
    Posted August 27, 2012 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    Love to hear what Billy has to say.

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